Frequently Asked Questions
When we go out on our trikes, people often stop to talk to us about them and are understandably curious about these unusual and wonderful machines. Some questions crop up regularly in these conversations, and these, along with our attempts to answer them, make up this page.
The question we are probably asked most often is "Did you make it yourself?", but the answer to this is too obvious to require inclusion below...
This question seems to trouble many people who are unfamiliar with our machines. In our experience, drivers notice recumbents in general and trikes in particular much more easily than they notice upright bikes and often give them much more space on the road.
While recumbent trikes are often quite low, they are also a little wider than two-wheelers and give the impression of being even more so. Many drivers seem to treat our trikes as a vehicle (as they should) and to overtake them properly when passing, instead of trying to squeeze past inside the white line as they sometimes do with upright bikes. And if a driver does pass a little too closely, the low centre of gravity and the stability of three wheels prevents their slipstream from affecting the rider's balance as it can with a two wheeled machine.
The recumbent position also gives the rider a better field of view. Instead of gazing downward at their front wheel they are looking up at their surroundings, and better able to keep track of the movement of traffic. Looking behind is more difficult, however, and we strongly recommend the use of at least one rear-view mirror.
Well, not on their own, no.....
There seems to be a widespread belief that recumbents in general are inferior to uprights when the road starts to go uphill. It is certainly true that you can't climb hills in the same way on a recumbent as on an upright. You can't get out of the saddle to "honk" on a recumbent, so someone who uses this technique extensively when riding an upright is likely to be slower when climbing on a recumbent, at least to begin with. To climb hills on a recumbent, the technique is to select a gear that is comfortable to pedal and spin.
Recumbents generally tend to be a little heavier than uprights and this is particularly true of trikes, but there are compensations. As well as allowing the rider to push against the seat when pedalling, the stability of a trike allows climbing at slower speeds than a two wheeled machine by eliminating the need for a minimum speed with which to maintain balance.
Ultimately it is really a question of the individual rider's abilities. Rob, for example, has always been a strong, fit rider and after an initial period of adjustment found climbing easier and faster on his trike than on his upright road bike. Carol, on the other hand, a much weaker rider and a poor climber, is probably slower on her solo trike, but finds that, because of the stability and wider gear range it gives her, she can ride up slopes that would defeat her on her upright.
But of course it isn't quite that simple. People and their sitting equipment come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and not all of them find the same things comfortable. This is one of the reasons we always advise people to test ride before buying a recumbent, and if possible to test ride several different machines, so as to determine which one suits them best.
We have heard complaints from some recumbent riders, usually of the BikeE style "semi-recumbent" machines, that after a variable time riding they begin to suffer from the elegantly-named "recumbent butt", which seems to consist of pain or numbness in the buttocks, probably arising from their weight resting mainly on the seat pad. We have yet to hear of this problem arising with the more reclined machines, like the Greenspeed where the rider's weight is borne by the back as well as the bottom.
So how fast does it go then ?
As with climbing this is largely dependant on the strength of the individual rider. We have achieved a speed of nearly 50mph on a good clear downhill on our GTT, and could probably have managed a slightly higher speed if traffic conditions had allowed it. On a good flat road we can cruise on the GTT at 17-18mph with reasonable ease, and given a stronger stoker the machine could probably do better.
Rob has competed in the British Human Power Club's races for several years now , first on a GTS, then a GLR and now on a fully-faired SLR. His best result was in 2003, when he finished sixth in the overall standings.
There seems to be something about recumbents that somehow suggests this to people, as it's a question that crops up surprisingly often.
Many people who do have back problems find recumbents easier to ride than uprights, probably because many recumbent seats support the back well, and some find recumbents allow them to continue cycling when they can no longer ride an upright. This is not universal - we know of at least one person with back problems who finds upright riding possible but is unable to ride a recumbent - but does seem common.